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Disney during COVID-19: Is it safe?
Disney closed at the start of the COVID-19 quarantine, laying off 32,000 employees by November. After 116 magic-less days, the parks reopened July 15, just as coronavirus cases soared in Orlando. Going to Disney World right now may seem ridiculous, and perhaps it still is. Now that months have passed since its reopening, it's not quite as empty, but it's not packed either. I'm not going to downplay the nuances of this decision to go to Disney World during the pandemic. There were cons. But to start, walking around Disney felt safer than your average grocery store. On a Thursday, during a crisp morning, the grounds of Hollywood Studios challenged my preconceived notions of how busy and crowded I thought it was going to be. Besides wanting to know if it is safe, the second most important question is: is it worth it? Warning: Florida coronavirus cases nearly surpass two million. While Orlando peaked over the holiday months, it's trending downward in February. Check regularly to monitor the flow of cases. The CDC also recommends against participating in anything revolving around crowds. When to go Unfortunately, there is just no way of knowing how busy the parks will get on any given day, but going during the week could give you better odds. At 100 percent capacity, Magic Kingdom can allegedly hold 100,000 guests. Parks are operating at 35% capacity, which is a jump from 2020 at 25%. While that is still 65% less than usual, that doesn't necessarily mean there aren't many people. You can still be in the park with around 30,000 people. When booking, pay attention to the colors of the day. Green means all the parks are still under the reduced capacity. Yellow means some parks are full, and red likely means no parks are available that day. Disney World precautionsDisney World requires attendants to wear a mask at all times, unless sitting or standing to the side, except in line. No food or drink permitted. Lines are maintained at six feet apart. You wouldn't think this could be true, but it was. Most of the lines snaked outside, so six feet apart didn't feel forced at all. Once you got inside, they tried hard to be smart about it. If the line snaked back in the direction of other people, they put plexiglass walls up to separate you. Or, when that wasn't feasible, they alternated the line so that you were never next to someone in a different section. Depending on your party size, you might get entire rows of the ride to yourself. On rides shared between two groups, they put up plexiglass. For example, there was plexiglass between our row and the people in front of us when we rode the Mickey and Minnie Runaway Train ride. There was also a noticeable increase in cleaning. You would often see employees wiping surfaces down. SafetyWe didn't see a soul without their mask on walking around the park, which is impressive considering that going to the grocery store, you don't always see the same respect. If you get caught walking and eating, they will quickly warn you to step to the side. I don't know if this is true for all parks, but I found Hollywood Studios' layout a little strange. Strange enough to where it was hard for people not to get congested at certain parts. I wore two masks the whole time, except when on a ride (then I wore one). The congestion obviously makes everything riskier, but it's definitely not the hoards of people you would experience here a year ago. It felt more like a packed grocery, but outside. It is worth bringing your own sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. While the employees are wiping things down, there are a couple of rides requiring 3D glasses. Only one person uses them before they get resanitized, but they get distributed in buckets where a grabby kid could touch a bunch of them. We wiped ours down. There are plenty of hand sanitizing stations at every ride entrance and exit, and walkway, but some of them are out. PlanningYou MUST get a Disney ticket and reserve a park. This is how they monitor capacity. The park reservation isn't extra, but it is required among admission. You also need a valid ID and the card you used to purchase. If you plan to park hop, you can only change parks starting at 2 pm with the park hopper pass. If you were hoping to get a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance, you must first go to Hollywood Studios. All we wanted to do was go to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Since reopening, they reconfigured how you visit the park's most popular attraction: Rise of the Resistance. Instead of waiting in line and competing with fast passes (more on that in a second), this ride requires a boarding group. At 7 am the day of, the boarding group opens. You have to join a group that second, otherwise it fills. We didn't get it that first round (which was devastating and stressful). The only other opportunity you have is at one. Like I said, you MUST be in Hollywood Studios to be eligible to join a boarding group. Be aware of the time too. Otherwise, you might find yourself sitting in the car for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Train, holding your phone as high as you can, trying to get enough service to join. Meanwhile, all the employees are shaking their heads... You know, it's just something I heard happens. Luckily, we got it. Once you have a boarding group, you keep doing what you're doing because it'll notify you when they call your group. At that point, you have an hour to make it to the ride. Word of the wise, if you can go as soon as your group is called, there is less wait than at the end of the hour. Another note, screenshot EVERYTHING. You don't want to take any chances with a glitch in the system. You can only ride this ride once. Fast passes and lines Disney World has currently suspended FastPass+ services, which means everyone stands in the same line, except for Rise of the Resistance, as it requires the boarding pass. Some people would die at the thought of not having the FastPass+, but for spontaneous travelers such as myself, I always found them stressful and unfair. I didn't want to be waiting in line for hours either, so this left me very unsure of what the day would bring. Surprisingly, I never waited more than 40 minutes for a ride, which was only for one. The Disney World app makes a huge difference in reducing your line wait. There is a map of the park with the wait times listed for each attraction in the app. I found the best strategy to tackle all of the attractions was to go against the flow. You could see how people were navigating their day. Everyone wanted to start at the main rides like Slinky Dog or the Millenium Falcon ride. We went straight to the back of the park to Rockin' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. The line was only 20 minutes long! The app is updated regularly, but the best gauge is when you get to the end of the line, an employee usually stands with the wait time posted on a sign. This happened once when we went to Slinky Dog; the app stated 40 minutes, but when we got there, the line was 55. We did not get in line. We got a snack instead. When the larger rides were that long we chose to eat snacks. That way, when everyone finished and went to eat themselves, we were ready to hop in a shorter line. Most of the lines were a lot faster than their posted time. The lines kept moving too, so it never felt like we were stuck waiting around all day. Getting foodLike I mentioned earlier, the best way to eat is to go while everyone else is in line for a ride. This is just smart theme park etiquette but also great for COVID-19 safety. For a sit-down experience, the restaurants are seating at a limited capacity and should socially distance (we didn't do this). Most of the restaurants also require a reservation with limited walk-up availability. If dining is important to you, these reservations need to be made weeks in advance. Oga's Cantina, by far the coolest dining experience for Star Wars, had nothing available for us. *Sigh* But that didn't stop us from having a great experience. All of the made to order vendors required you to order on the app first and then show the host your meal is ready before you are allowed to enter, limiting lines and exposure to people. We ate in between crowds, too, so we could feel more comfortable sitting down. Some were indoor-outdoor spaces, and some were just indoor. The app is super easy to use, and it will also help you scout out all the dining options. Note, some spots are closed because of COVID-19. So… was it all worth it? Was the magic still there? The answer is that it kinda depends. There are no fireworks shows in Magic Kingdom, arguably one of the most magical parts. You also can't meet any of the characters. Every now and again, you can spot one on top of one of the sets. We saw Chewbacca and Ray hanging out, but it wasn't quite the same. They were standing six feet from each other, and other than staring at them, there wasn't any interaction. You couldn't even get a good picture. They did have a mini-parade in Hollywood Studios with the Incredibles walking down the main street. Again, it wasn't the spectacular show and energy you are used to, but getting to experience all of the attractions before the day was up because lines were short? That was pretty cool. At this point, almost a year into COVID-19, our perceptions have changed so much. Our perception of crowds, time spent, life in general. For me, I thought it was great just getting to experience little moments of magic.
How the largest hotel chains are giving back amid a pandemic
All around the world, hotels and travel companies have been doing what they can to help communities affected by the pandemic and show appreciation for essential workers and healthcare staff working to make a difference in the fight against Covid-19. From familiar hotel brands and B&Bs to wineries and corporate travel companies, here’s a look at some of the ways they’ve helped support small businesses and keep hope alive this year. Hyatt Hyatt has been pretty busy this year, with roughly 60 properties worldwide helping small businesses stay afloat with a new initiative called Hyatt Loves Local. Here in the U.S., Hyatt Regency Atlanta offered complimentary use of its kitchen and lobby spaces to support Anna Bell’s Mac & Cheese, while Andaz West Hollywood let local business Barcode Barbershop take over its rooftop for two months of outdoor haircuts and styling treatments. Other Hyatt hotels, like Motif Seattle and Grand Hyatt Vail, helped community businesses open onsite pop-ups—a mobile coffee cart for Monorail Espresso in Seattle and a pop-up shop for women’s clothing boutique Wild Heart in Vail—while Gild Hall in New York City arranged for BACH Fitness to host socially distant yoga and pilates classes so the company could stay open. Hyatt is also offering a special Friends & Family rate as a way to show appreciation for healthcare workers when they book with promo code THANKYOU on stays now through September 12, 2021. World of Hyatt loyalty program members can also donate Hyatt points toward free stays for healthcare staff and other frontline workers. Hilton Hilton’s approach has been a little different, with many individual properties offering ways to give back in addition to larger-scale corporate efforts made earlier this year, like donating one million rooms to medical professionals, partnering with World Central Kitchen and other worldwide endeavors. Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino is donating $25 per night to one of two local charities when you book a Give Back Aruba package, while a portion of Forest Therapy spa treatments at Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead will go to Trees Atlanta, which supports the conservation and creation of green spaces around the city. In Colorado, The Curtis is donating $5 from every Don’t Eat Yellow Snow package to the Ronald McDonald House of Denver. Just in time for Christmas, three hotels—Conrad New York Downtown, Conrad Washington, D.C. and Conrad Dublin—are partnering with local children’s hospitals to host a “Hotline to the North Pole,” on December 23 and 24, a video conference link letting little ones chat with Santa Claus. Members of Hilton’s loyalty program can aso redeem Hilton Honors points for donations to several charities and nonprofit organizations by linking their account with partner site, PointWorthy. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG Hotels & Resorts) Besides allowing IHG Rewards Club members to donate their IHG points to charitable causes like the American Red Cross, Goodwill and The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, IHG has been doing its part to recognize the efforts of essential workers around the world, awarding complimentary stays to those who deserve it most. One essential worker in the U.K., for instance, was given a surprise trip to the Hotel Indigo Stratford-Upon-Avon after missing her 26th wedding anniversary because the healthcare facility where she worked made her stay there for 12 weeks. Marriott As a way to show appreciation for the brave men and women working on the front lines in the fight against Covid-19, Marriott is offering special rates for Community Caregivers—healthcare workers, first responders and their families—at participating properties within the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. To get the discount, qualified essential workers can book stays by March 31, 2021, and must show valid identification from your medical, government, military or relief organization when they check in. The Copper Door B&B and Rosie’s Pop-Up in Miami While Jamila Ross and Akino West, owners of The Copper Door B&B in Miami’s historic Overtown neighborhood, have been forced to make some adjustments this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic—the B&B’s legendary communal breakfast has since evolved into Rosie’s, a pop-up restaurant where guests can save 20%—they’re still paying it forward. The two hospitality entrepreneurs made headlines earlier this year when they cooked and delivered weekly meals to volunteers at the local World Central Kitchen outpost, Red Rooster, and it’s something they’ve continued to do ever since. Today, The Copper Door B&B is operating at 50% capacity with Covid-safe measures in place while Rosie’s remains open for brunch, serving up Soul Food classics like shrimp & grits and chicken & waffles as well as Italian-inspired dishes like Southern-style polenta and lemon ricotta pancakes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. TripActions Corporate travel and expense management company TripActions found yet another meaningful way to give back to its local community this year. When students in San Francisco neighborhoods hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic suddenly found themselves having to attend school from home, many of them without the proper equipment or Wi-Fi access, TripActions’ Head of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Shaka Senghor led the company’s efforts to donate more than 100 laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and other technology through its partnerships with Hack the Hood, Climb Hire and Burton High School. The donations helped ensure students enrolled in tech training programs would have what they needed to continue their studies, including mentorship opportunities, while students at Burton High School were given the option to have monthly care packages with snacks sent to their homes. Kendall-Jackson Wines Earlier this fall, Sonoma County based winery Kendall-Jackson partnered with United Way Worldwide to create the Grocery Worker’s Relief Fund in an effort to provide up to $250 in cash cards and other pandemic-related emergency assistance via United Way’s 211 crisis services to essential workers currently employed by supermarkets and retail stores with grocery departments. So far, Kendall-Jackson has pledged $200,000 for the first year, committing to $2 million in support through August 2030.
10 amazing outdoor adventures near Los Angeles
While the city of Los Angeles is a tourist destination in and of itself, it is sometimes necessary to leave the city and venture somewhere new. Especially when every part of you is itching to travel right now. Fortunately, L.A. is centrally-located to many cities that offer socially-distanced activities to suit any preference. <ost restaurants offer only outdoor dining or takeout service. Many of these cities are accessible by train within a couple of hours, as Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route runs up and down the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Take a ferry to Catalina Island Board the Catalina Express and in about an hour you will be transported to the town of Avalon, what was once a playground for Hollywood’s glitterati. Fancy parasailing? Here you can enjoy the ultimate social distancing activity as you glide through the air, admiring the views below. Catalina is the home to about 150 wild buffalo, which are the descendants of a small herd that was left there by a film crew in the 1920s. During the two-hour Bison Expedition with Catalina Tours, you’ll hop into an off-road vehicle and venture into the precipitous Cape Canyon, where bison and other wildlife are often spotted. For a special treat, dine on the waterfront patio at Bluewater Grill, which offers a variety of sustainable seafood options. ©Mate Steindl/EyeEm/Getty Images Hike the trails at Joshua Tree Located at the intersection of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, Joshua Tree National Park is a mystical place. Many say that these twisted trees with pointed spines belong in a Dr. Seuss book and they wouldn’t be wrong, although that is part of the appeal. Options to explore the park are endless, and depending on your skill level you can embark on nature treks or more challenging backcountry hikes. For more adventurous types, you can traverse over different rock formations by climbing or bouldering. If you plan to stay after dark, don’t miss the myriad of stargazing opportunities-- because of its remote location, you’ll be treated to an astronomical display of stars, planets, and the Milky Way. Ride the zip line in Santa Margarita Imagine tasting wine on an outdoor patio and then, aided by liquid courage, traveling by zip line over acres of Pinot Noir vines with not a care in the world. Riding tandem is your partner-in-crime, laughing giddily at the incomparable feeling of soaring through the pines. At Ancient Peaks Winery, which is located in the tiny town of Santa Margarita, you can do just that. Sample wine at their tasting room and then venture out to their 14,000 acre ranch, where guests can choose among six different zip line tours of the vineyard. On a recent tour by Margarita Adventures, participants spotted a variety of wildlife; including deer, turkeys, hawks, and even a bear. Laguna Beach. ©Ron and Patty Thomas/Getty Images Indulge your inner beachcomber in Laguna Beach The small enclave of Laguna Beach is well-known for its summer art festivals, which were an annual occurrence until COVID hit. For those dedicated to ocean exploits, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel, paddleboard, or surf at one of the many beaches and coves that dot the coastline. Be sure to visit Victoria Beach at low tide, which is a beloved spot for skimboarders and also home of the Instagrammable “Pirate Tower,” a 60-foot stone turret. Another popular area along the coast is Crystal Cove, where tidepools abound. While you’re there, have lunch at The Beachcomber, which is located right on the sand. (Or, sidle up to the adjacent Bootlegger Bar at sunset.) Walk through a unique art installation in Paso Robles If you haven’t yet been to international artist Bruce Munro’s acclaimed art installation Field of Light at Sensorio, you are in for a treat as it has recently been extended through January 2021. Follow the pathway through an open field filled with thousands of tiny “flowers”-- solar-powered lights mounted on stems that are lit by fiber optics, their colors everchanging. Be sure to reserve tickets early, as they do sell out, and they are taking extra efforts to follow protocols related to COVID-19. While in Paso Robles visit Tin City, a small warehouse district that houses a variety of wine tasting rooms, breweries, a cidery, and even a distillery. Satisfy your appetite with one of the many food trucks lined up nearby. Explore Balboa Park in San Diego Balboa Park is a cultural treasure-- located in the center of the city, it has seventeen museums, several types of gardens, and is also the home of the San Diego Zoo. At over 1,200 acres, there is plenty of room to roam. Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden, the lily pond at the Botanical Building, or the artist studios at the Spanish Village, then find a spot in the sun and dive into a good book. Currently the San Diego Museum of Art has reopened with limited capacity and new safety measures, while other museums there remain closed. Dine next door at Panama 66, or venture a short distance outside of the park and ignite your palate with Mexican soul food at Barrio Star. Santa Barbara Coastline. ©Jon Bilous/Shutterstock Spend a day on Santa Barbara’s coastline Often referred to as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara’s stunning coastline and dedication to fine wine certainly lives up to its moniker. Stroll through the Funk Zone, the city’s arts district, and admire the colorful murals before stopping at one of the many tasting rooms in the area that make up the Urban Wine Trail. Enjoy al fresco dining at Hotel Californian’s Goat Tree, a gourmet cafe that serves creative Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The ocean also offers its pick of activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. You can find your zen with “Soundwave Sessions”-- yoga on the beach with provided headphones, which allows you to listen to music and instruction simultaneously. (They also offer bilingual sessions en español.) Go fishing at Big Bear Lake Rent a pontoon boat and fish to your heart’s content on Big Bear Lake, or lounge and listen to your favorite tunes as the boat’s massive deck allows for plenty of room to relax. Or, you can opt to kayak or swim in the lake. Inhale the crisp alpine air and become one with nature as you hike Castle Rock Trail, a steep tree-lined path that winds around huge granite boulders and rewards you with sweeping panoramic views of the lake. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bald eagle. Venture out to Big Bear Village and take your pick of restaurants, depending on your appetite. Highly recommended is The Himalayan, which serves a variety of dishes from India and Nepal. Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway #1 at the US West Coast traveling south to Los Angeles, Big Sur Area. ©Michael Urmann/Shutterstock. Take the Highway 1 Discovery Route The Highway 1 Discovery Route extends for a hundred miles along California’s Central Coast, which stretches from Monterey Bay all the way down to Ventura. Between the months of October and February, monarch butterflies migrate to groves along the coast from Pismo Beach to Morro Bay. There are a variety of ways to visit these groves, and many can be viewed from golf courses that line the coast, such as Sea Pines, a resort and nine-hole executive golf course in Los Osos. The Highway 1 Discovery Route also encompasses the Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo region, a sweet spot for wine tasting. Spend some time sampling wine in the charming town of Los Olivos, which is surrounded by vineyards, lavender farms, ranches, and orchards. Visit California’s oldest neighborhood in San Juan Capistrano Well-known as the former home of migrating swallows every March, San Juan Capistrano is also where the state’s oldest neighborhood, the Los Rios Historic District, is located. Wander across the dusty tracks of the Capistrano train depot, where you’ll encounter a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as a petting zoo. Stop for coffee under the trees at Hidden House, or if you’re hungry, dine on the outdoor patio at Trevor’s at the Tracks or Rancho Capistrano Winery-- both offer delectable dishes that are often accompanied by live music. Then, walk a short distance to Mission San Juan Capistrano, which has a museum and chapel on the property. The close proximity to the Amtrak station makes this a convenient day trip from L.A.
Theme parks are back, kinda
The country is still taking its time reopening after months of closings due to Covid 19. Though each state is still deciding on its own timeline for letting people get back to their lives, and large group outings are still shunned in much of the country, theme parks are beginning phased reopenings after shutting in March. Obviously, things will not be going back to normal yet, so it will be interesting to see what things look like in this new, coronavirus, world. Here then is an update on the country's most popular parks, and what you need to know before you and your family decide to plan a visit. ©Robert Noel de Tilly/Shutterstock Disney World Let’s start with the Happiest Place on Earth. Depending on the location, Disney’s many parks have different opening dates, rules, and regulations. For instance, limited shops and restaurants in Orlando’s Disney Springs began opening on May 20, and Universal Orlando opened on June 5—albeit accompanied by a warning on their websites. Disney Springs includes this, “An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and Guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable. By visiting Disney Springs you voluntarily assume all risks related to COVID-19. Help keep each other healthy.” Not exactly the usual warm and fuzzy we expect from Disney. Disney World, also in Orlando, will begin opening on July 11, with Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios delayed until July 15. The Top Things You Should Know section of https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/experience-updates/ outlines important health precautions, like required face coverings for anyone over the age of 2, random temperature screenings and physical distancing (that means you parades, shows and fireworks). Disney Land In California, Governor Gavin Newsom will not allow Anaheim’s Disneyland parks to open until Stage 3 of the four-stage reopening road map—with no firm date in place. UPDATE: Disney Land has announced that its reopening plans are postponed, and that it will no longer reopen to visitors on July 17 as planned. Universal Orlando Universal Orlando Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (Including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) will open to the general public on Friday, June 5. The park has been outfitted with new social distancing markers directing park goers to new flows and lines. The park has also been updated for contactless payment to protect visitors and staff from direct interactions. Attendees will be require to pass a temperature check when they enter the park, and people are encouraged to wear masks at all times. King's Island Kings Island makes the largest amusement and waterpark in the Midwest. Located in Mason, OH, neither park has announced a firm date for reopening, though a message from Mike Koontz, VP and GM of Kings Island on its website is touting the opening of its newest Orion roller coaster, with a drop of 300 feet, as well as a promise to put the safety of its guests first. The park’s Grand Carnivale nighttime parade and its Summer Nights block party, are both being pushed back until 2021, as well as all 2020 Season Passes and add-on products. Six Flags Six Flags is the largest regional theme park company and the largest operator of water parks in North America—with 26 venues in all. Though kids all over the country are disappointed they won’t be able to freely ride the coasters and waterslides from coast to coast, the Oklahoma City-based Frontier City opened its doors on June 5, with a 3-day preview mode for Members and Season Pass Holders only. Attendance levels will gradually increase during the month and Six Flags President and CEO Mike Spanos believes the park can easily manage guest throughput for social distancing. Other health restrictions include thermal imaging for temperature checks, advanced security screening technology for touchless bag checks, and expanded mobile food ordering. In addition, guests over the age of 2 will have to don masks and all guests must make a reservation to attend the park at www.sixflags.com/reserve www.sixflags.com/reserve. The only other Six Flags park open at this time is the Cream Ridge, NJ-based Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure. This too needs a reservation at the above website, and the COVID-19 rules include maintaining space between cars, a 5 mph speed limit and no bathrooms, food or gas availability. Stay tuned for more openings as the summer progresses. Dollywood Dollywood Dolly Parton’s extravagant Dollywood park, set in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex in Pigeon Forge, TN, will begin a phased reopening on June 17, while the DreamMore Resort & Spa opens on June 10. The website’s “playsafe” message includes a similar warning to Disney, reminding customers of the danger of coronavirus and “By visiting Dollywood Parks & Resorts you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.” In addition, daily capacity will be limited and season passholders will be required to make reservations. Other health regulations include physical distancing, temperature screenings before entering the park, and face masks required for age 3 and up—though exceptions include water park rides.
10 Best U.S. Airports for Local Food
Local food isn’t just a culinary trend in hipster hubs. It’s catching on in airports, too. That’s good news for travelers. You can forgo that chain fast food order for tastes of a city’s best restaurants, specialty dishes, and local food during a layover. Here are some of the best places to have a unique dining experience before catching your connection. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Some of the Valley of the Sun’s favorite restaurants have landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor. Top brunch joint Matt’s Big Breakfast (try the waffles with sweet cream butter) has a legendary status in town, as does Iron Chef winner Mark Tarbell, the founder of airport restaurant The Tavern. To appease a sweet tooth, head to Tammie Coe Cakes, for cupcakes or big cookies, or Sweet Republic, for handcrafted ice cream in flavors such as salted butter caramel swirl. If you only have time for a quick craft beer, SanTan Brewing Company and Four Peaks Brewery have local suds on tap. Austin-Bergstrom International Austin is a downhome food town, and its airport is no different. Tap into the town’s food truck vibe with a burger from Hut’s Hamburgers or a bahn-mi taco from The Peached Tortilla. Salt Lick Barbecue is a Hill Country-import with barbecue-sauce slathered smoked meats, sandwiches, and baked potatoes. Plus, you can grab some packaged brisket to take home with you. Austin institution Amy’s Ice Creams also scoops artisan ice cream in flavors like Mexican vanilla. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Travelers can follow a Texas barbecue trail without even leaving the airport. Hop from Fort Worth classic Cousin’s BBQ or Cousin’s Back Porch, to Dickey’s Barbecue Pit (the chain is based in Dallas), and The Salt Lick. Then diners can balance all that Tex with a fair share of Mex at restaurants such as Pappasito’s Cantina. Los Angeles International Airport This airport is a Hollywood gateway, so it’s no surprise the airport’s home to a few star chefs’ restaurants. For example, Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio is the mastermind behind ink.sack, a gourmet sandwich shop. At Homeboy Bakery, diners eat local and give back to Los Angeles. The bakery is a social enterprise of Homeboy Industries, which serves formerly gang-involved men and women, and, at the bakery, trains them with job skills. Travelers can also get a local-food fix at the Original Farmers Market. After 80 years, the LA institution opened an airport locale to serve meals, snacks, and sweets straight from the market’s restaurants and stalls. John F. Kennedy International Airport Manhattan is a playground for internationally known chefs – and many have opened airport restaurants. New York City local Andrew Carmellini opened sandwich-centric Croque Madame. Top Chef Masters’ champion and James Beard Foundation award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson founded Uptown Brasserie, serving international cuisine in a brasserie environment. Shake Shack may be a national chain now, but it started in New York City, so travelers can get their burger hit and feel like they’re eating local all in one bite. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta is the busiest international airport in the world, so travelers are likely to make their way through here at some point – or often. In Atlanta, eating at Chick-fil-A counts as eating local – the chain was founded in there – but there’s much more than chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. The first upscale restaurant at the airport, One Flew South serves global fare, while Paschal’s, a more than sixty-year-old spot, doubles down on soul food. Nashville International Airport Tourists can get in on the late-night-recording-session vibe with Nashville-born 8th & Roast Coffee Co. Burritos may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Tennessee, but Blue Coast Burrito has spread its tortilla wings across the state and has an airport setup. Music City isn’t short on beer, either. Grab a craft draft at Yazoo Brewery kiosk, Tennessee Brew Works, and Fat Bottom Brewing. Swett’s serves a classic Southern lunch—don’t miss the pecan pie. Denver International Airport Denver’s all about brews and big-time meats. Head to Denver ChopHouse & Brewery for craft beer from Denver-based Rock Bottom Brewery Co. and a menu that includes filet mignon and bison burgers. Elway’s, owned by local icon and former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, also serves hand-cut steaks. For lighter fare, head to Mile High City favorite Root Down, which specializes in healthy, gluten-free, and vegetarian dishes. Portland International Airport All hail the hipster gods, who have brought droves of local food to Portlandia’s airport. Travelers can get their caffeine fixes at local institution Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Eating a donut is practically required in Portland, and passengers can find versions from Portland’s second most famous shop, Blue Star Donuts at PDX. Laurelwood Public House & Brewery serves handcrafted beers and solid pub grub, like fish and chips. Food Carts PDX keeps things lively with a rotating lineup of local food trucks, which serve breakfast and lunch. Previous carts have served Cuban food, waffles, and Asian-fusion fare. San Francisco International Airport San Franciscans were going green and serving local before it was popular, and its airport restaurants reflect that tradition. Burger Joint has been plating humanely and sustainably raised meats on family farms and ranches since 1994, and it continues to do now inside the airport. The Plant Café also serves local, organic food, and sustainable seafood. On the run? Duck into Napa Farms Market, a marketplace that reflects northern California’s agricultural bounty with grab-and-go sandwiches and baked goods.
Bargain trips between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2019
Can you keep a secret? The weeks between the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays can hold bargains for travelers who are willing and able to sneak away for an early-December “mini shoulder season.” Everybody knows Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest periods of the year, with more than 50 million Americans on the move and airfares and hotel rates typically rising. Likewise, as you get closer to Christmas Eve, the more you can expect to pay for airline seats and hotel beds. But what is not commonly understood is the sweet spot in between those holidays (roughly from late November through Dec. 20 or so) brings opportunities for savings as theme parks, hotel chains, and airlines see a big drop in demand and seek to entice travelers with good deals. Here are some of the most alluring places to consider. Disney Devotees of Walt Disney World, in Orlando, FL, who have made multiple park visits consistently report early December is one of the most magical times to enjoy iconic attractions like Space Mountain, Fantasyland, and the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Holiday decorations and events abound, including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show, and Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays and Candlelight Procession. And select Disney Resort hotels such as Animal Kingdom Lodge, BoardWalk Inn, and the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa offer up to 20 percent savings on bookings right up to December 24, when the crowds return and room rates rise. (Learn more at disneyworld.disney.go.com). If you’re considering a trip to Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA, for its holiday festivities, aim for the weeks of December 9th and 16th for lower rates at popular on-site hotels such as the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Disneyland Hotel. (Learn more at disneyland.disney.go.com) Universal Studios Travelers can enjoy immersive lands devoted to the Simpsons, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and more, plus get a head start on holiday celebrations minus the hordes by booking a stay at Universal Orlando Resort in early-to-mid-December. You’ll enjoy the Christmas decorations and events at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal’s legendary Holiday Parade, and a live retelling of Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch in the ‘Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.’ Hotel bargains are available for stays until December 19, including rates starting at $120/night for a four-night stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, including early park-entry privileges each morning. (Learn more at universalorlando.com) A visit to Universal Studios Hollywood, in Universal City, CA, in early-to-mid-December offers similar attractions and holiday-themed events and reduced crowds, with nearby partner hotels offering reasonable packages that include room and park entrance starting around $190 per person; prices start to tick upward as you get closer to the weekend of December 20. (Learn more at universalstudioshollywood.com) Warm Beach Getaways Sure, most travelers dream of escaping the cold weather in January and February. But the “mini shoulder season” between Thanksgiving and Christmas is an ideal time to plant yourself on a warm white-sand beach at major savings. From the South Pacific to the Caribbean, warm-weather beach communities regard early-to-mid-December as a time to lure bargain-seekers. Hawaii hotels and resorts are known for offering nice post-Thanksgiving deals such as complimentary nights added to your stay; the Big Island, home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, consistently offers the best hotel rates among the Hawaiian islands. South Florida and the Caribbean have said “buh-bye” to hurricane season and offer buy-one-get-one-free stays (which can often be even more generous than that – research deals online, then follow up with a direct call to the property and ask, politely, if they can offer you even more). European River Cruises Now is the time to research and book a 2020 December river cruise through some of Europe’s legendary Christmas celebrations and public markets. Follow cruise lines such as Viking River Cruises and Avalon Waterways on social media and sign up for alerts so you can jump on good deals, which are typically offered up to a year in advance (when cruise lines are especially eager to fill staterooms for the coming year). For the best possible taste of Europe’s Christmas markets, with their handmade crafts, elaborately decorated baked goods, and endless old-world charm, choose a cruise that will visit Central European cities like Vienna and Budapest. Note: While it’s theoretically possible to grab a last-minute deal on a 2019 Christmas markets river cruise, it is unlikely at this late date. (Learn more at vikingrivercruises.com and avalongwaterways.com) Québec City, Canada Can’t afford a trip to Paris? Opt instead to stroll the charming winding streets of Québec City, along the St. Lawrence River, where you can practice your French language skills, try an array of authentic local cuisine (including the ultimate “gravy fries,” poutine), and sip great wine. While Québec draws visitors from all over the world as the New Year arrives with its winter festival and ice sculptures (and the ice hotel, opening January 2), early December is a great time to get a taste of all the city offers before the crowds arrive. (Learn more at quebec-cite.com)
More Places to go
Sunny Isles Beach
Sunny Isles Beach (SIB, officially the City of Sunny Isles Beach) is a city located on a barrier island in northeast Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. The city is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Intracoastal Waterway on the west. Sunny Isles Beach is an area of cultural diversity with stores lining Collins Avenue, the main thoroughfare through the city. It is renowned for having the 14th tallest skyline in America despite its relatively low population. It is a growing resort area and developers like Michael Dezer have invested heavily in construction of high-rise hotels and condominiums while licensing the Donald Trump name for some of the buildings for promotional purposes. Sunny Isles Beach has a central location, minutes from Bal Harbour to the south, and Aventura to the north and west. Sunny Isles Beach was also the 2008 site of MTV's annual Spring Break celebration, with headquarters at the local Newport Beachside Resort.
Fort Lauderdale () is a city in the U.S. state of Florida, 25 miles (40 km) north of Miami. It is the county seat and largest city of Broward County. As of 2019 census bureau estimates, the city has an estimated population of 182,437. Fort Lauderdale is a principal city of the Miami metropolitan area, which was home to an estimated 6,198,782 people in 2018.The city is a popular tourist destination, and Yachting Capital of the World, with an average year-round temperature of 75.5 °F (24.2 °C) and 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. Greater Fort Lauderdale, encompassing all of Broward County, hosted 13 million overnight visitors in 2018. There were over 560 hotels and nearly 36,000 hotel rooms. From that, the county collected nearly $87 million from its 5% hotel development tax it charges. Additionally, 3.89 million cruise passengers passed through its Port Everglades, making it the 3rd largest cruise port in the world. Greater Fort Lauderdale has over 4,000 restaurants, 63 golf courses, 12 shopping malls, 16 museums, 132 nightclubs, 278 parkland campsites, and 100 marinas housing 45,000 resident yachts.Fort Lauderdale is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the Second Seminole War. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale (1782–1838), younger brother of Lieutenant Colonel James Lauderdale. William Lauderdale was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort. Development of the city did not begin until 50 years after the forts were abandoned at the end of the conflict. Three forts named "Fort Lauderdale" were constructed: the first was at the fork of the New River, the second was at Tarpon Bend on the New River between the present-day Colee Hammock and Rio Vista neighborhoods, and the third was near the site of the Bahia Mar Marina.
Pompano Beach ( POMP-ə-noh) is a city in Broward County, Florida, United States, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The Hillsboro Inlet forms part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
Miami (), officially the City of Miami, is a coastal metropolis located in Miami-Dade County in southeastern Florida, United States. With a population of 442,241 as of the 2020 census, it is the 44th-largest city in the United States and the core of the nation's eighth-largest metropolitan area. The city has the third-largest skyline in the U.S. with over 300 high-rises, 58 of which exceed 491 ft (150 m).Miami is a major center and leader in finance, commerce, culture, arts, and international trade. The metro area is by far the largest urban economy in Florida and the 12th largest in the United States, with a GDP of $344.9 billion as of 2017. In 2020, Miami was classified as a Beta + level global city by the GaWC. In 2019, Miami ranked seventh in the United States and 31st among global cities in business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement. According to a 2018 UBS study of 77 world cities, the city was ranked as the third-richest in the world and the second-richest in the United States in purchasing power. Miami is nicknamed the "Capital of Latin America" and is one of the largest majority-minority cities in the United States with over 72.7% of the population being of Hispanic and Latino descent.Greater Downtown Miami has one of the largest concentrations of international banks in the United States, and is home to many large national and international companies. The Health District, home to Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami among others, is a major center for hospitals, clinics, and the biotechnology and medical research industries. PortMiami is the busiest cruise port in the world in both passenger traffic and cruise lines, and refers to itself as the "Cruise Capital of the World". Miami is also a major tourism hub for international visitors, ranking second in the country after New York City.Miami continues to contend with a range of challenges affecting the metropolitan area, including significant and rising levels of traffic, continued rapid commercial development and urban sprawl as well as rising levels of crime. A significant risk to Miami as well as the state of Florida arises from environmental factors including hurricanes and other tropical storms, rising sea levels and the ongoing impact of climate change on the coastal areas of the city.